Project H: The tick-box-obsessed brain

On the Friday of a four day weekend it feels as though it’s never going to end. The days stretch ahead like an open expanse, brimming with possibility. In reality, when I woke up on Saturday morning last weekend with little more than a few loose plans to structure the day ahead, I couldn’t help but feel a little deflated. I love the idea of a free day to do as I so wish, but when it comes to it, if I haven’t planned it to within an inch of its life (complete with #bujo tick boxes and lists), then I feel lost.  I heard Fearne Cotton talking about this kind of thing on her podcast Happy Place. She said she feels the need to be constantly productive, always achieving, always doing. She thought that maybe she was too scared of what would be left if she just stopped. I would guess that this is quite a common feeling.

Take the other night as an example. I told myself I would go to bed even earlier than usual so I could relax and read my book (it’s excellent – more on that later) for a bit longer, but there I was writing, feverishly striving to meet some imaginary deadline I’ve just plucked from thin air and imposed on myself. Okay, it’s good to have goals and targets, but there’s a balance to be achieved. Speaking of goals, I told myself this week that I would comment on at least one thing in the news. And of course, it’s about climate change.

Greta Thunberg has been getting a lot of positive media coverage this week. But she’s also been getting a bit of stick, mainly from journalists who think she’s merely the ideal vessel for climate change activists to get their point across. They say she’s immune from criticism and questioning by Nick Robinson and others, simply by virtue (or not) of being a 16-year-old girl with Asperger syndrome. Quite clearly, as these articles prove, she isn’t. People are more than entitled to their opinions about her school strike and her speeches, but I think what she’s doing is commendable. She’s scared of her future, as we all should be, and is just trying to do something about it. This piece in The Spectator says that her coverage on the international stage is a “really well-crafted piece of PR.” To be perfectly honest, this just feels like dogged cynicism. Cynicism for the sake of it, for the sake of having a different opinion. Maybe that’s the whole point of journalism, I don’t know. I’m pretty gutted that The High Low has taken a break for April, as I’d be very interested to hear what Dolly and Pandora have to say about Greta.

On a different and more self-centred note, back to the amazing book I’m reading – Ordinary People by Diana Evans. I’m about half way through and it’s the kind of book I just want to read at every possible moment. I’ve been snatching chapters on the train, before bed and on long car journeys, basically whenever I can. Every action, every thought process and every conversation is so realistic that I feel as though I’ve stepped into the characters’ brains. In fact, I feel as though Diana Evans has stepped into my own brain and has had a rummage around in amongst my strangest thoughts. The way in which she captures everyday emotions and behaviours is so perfect, as well as reassuring. The story is quite a sad one, but also very familiar, even though I’m not married, I’m not black and I don’t have a baby. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone who likes reading about the minutiae of everyday life. And that’s not a criticism: I think it’s amazing that someone can write about a text message from wife to husband asking him to buy toilet roll and make it interesting.

Does reading count as ‘being productive’? I think in my head it does, which is probably a good thing, as I’m sure lots of people see it as a leisure activity and a way of relaxing. That means that I can trick my tick-list-obsessed brain into thinking I’m doing something on the list, when in reality I’m sitting in the bath with a good book. I’m lucky really, I still have time in my life to read, have a bath, watch Line of Duty. As much as I crave creativity and continuous productivity (and a cosy flat in London with a small balcony), I should just try and be content with what I’ve got.


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